Inspirational Journeys into Naturopathic Medicine

Spearheaded by the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND), Naturopathic Medicine Week (May 24-30, 2020) is an annual affair that seeks to teach Canadian communities about the value of naturopathic medicine, healthy living, and disease prevention. Traditionally naturopathic doctors in a given area would host a series of events, sessions, and workshops at local natural health retailers, community centers, and clinics. However, since this is currently not possible, the public is encouraged to stay informed about the benefits of naturopathic medicine by referencing online resources regarding recent studies in the field. One great resource is the research conducted by the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM)

Of course, you have also found yourself here with the Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation. Since the start, the Foundation has been proud to support this field of study. The Foundation offers education bursary programs in Canada to support students who are pursuing studies in Naturopathic Medicine at both the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM) and CCNM. To inspire the next generation of naturopathic practitioners, we thought we’d take a look to see what inspired current leaders in the discipline. Through their words, students may find motivations that mirror their own. If that can spark a flame to persevere through long nights of study to further the integration of naturopathic care into Canada’s health care system then, it’s most certainly worth it. Below is a Q & A with three professionals that may encourage successors to make great strides in the field of naturopathic medicine.

How Canada’s Leading Practitioners and Professionals Were Inspired to Pursue Careers in Naturopathic Medicine

Dr. Gaetano Morello, B.Sc., N.D.

Q: What motivated/inspired you to be a naturopathic doctor (ND)?

What inspired me to become a naturopathic physician was the realization that the human body is truly a miracle. It is an incredible gift to be treated with respect physically, nutritionally, and spiritually. That we would need to support its many parts in the most natural way possible and in doing so create an abundance of health so deserving of everyone on this planet. I remember thinking how the human body was the most amazingly intricate energetically active life form ever assembled and what a privilege it would be create a career around it. Attempting to understand its parts from the cellular genetic level going outward to its magnificent periphery would be an exercise revealing how much I needed to learn.   

Q: Was there a specific incident that inspired you to take the ND path?

Note: The following response has been edited to reduce length.

Naturopathic Medicine would allow me to better appreciate “the healing power of nature” and help those people in need. Having said all that, there was an emotional event that “let’s say” pushed me forward to the Naturopathic path. It was 33 years ago and at that time my mother was suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure) and on blood pressure lowering medications with little to no results but with side effects that were inhibiting her daily activities. Our main concern was that my maternal grandfather had died of a heart attack and my aunt (my mom’s sister) had died of a stroke at the young age of 52. Was my mom next on that list? 

At the time, as I was researching the subject of Naturopathic Medicine, I was fortunate to be introduced to Dr. Rogers a M.D. who practiced on the west end of Vancouver. In my meeting, he introduced me to the incredible ability of the human body to heal itself and the environment needed to do so. He shared with me the impact of nutrients and botanical medicines that could help control blood pressure when given at the right doses and at the right times. Leaving that encounter, I spent the next 4 weeks learning everything I could on hypertension and through library research everything available on nutrients and botanical for lower blood pressure.

I went back to see Dr. Rogers and together we formulated a plan for my mother. It took about 3 months, however, at the end of the three she was off her medications and on a combination of nutrients that miraculously resolved her blood pressure! It was one of those moments in life when you are overwhelmed with emotion and at the same time given a new calling in life.

Even more revealing was one of the botanicals we used- Hawthorne berries (Crataegus extracts) – and its mechanisms of action in lower blood pressure. It appeared that Crataegus had four different mechanisms of action:

  • It acted as an antioxidant in the cardiovascular system
  • It acted as a diuretic (most commonly prescribed medication for lower blood pressure)
  • It acted as an ACE inhibitor (another way of lower blood pressure by relaxing arteries)
  • It increased the inotropic effects of the myocardium (allows heart muscles to contract more efficiently).

What was remarkable about all this was that here were things we tried to mimic in mainstream pharmacology that nature had prepared in a plant! This was a revelation to me that made me think that there must have been other plants on our planet that did other things for other parts of the body. My curious research showed me that this was the case and once again my inspiration to become a Naturopathic Physician hit its climax and took me to Bastyr University.

Q: Anything else you might want to add?

I have been practicing Naturopathic Medicine and educating the public at large for 28 wonderful years. My knowledge continues to grow from those early years and my appetite for to learn more about the human body has never been stronger. It has become a life journey and one that I enjoy sharing with patients and the public on an ongoing basis. For the last 6 years, I’ve been working at BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre at the Complex Chronic Disease Program sharing my knowledge of Integrative Medicine with both patients and other clinicians. It demonstrates how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go.

View more about Dr. Gaetano Morello here.

Dr. Jaclyn Perchaluk, BA ND

Q: What motivated/inspired you to be a naturopathic doctor (ND)?

“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” (Albert Einstein)

I have always loved this quote – I truly believe that nature provides many solutions for our vitality and wellness. In university, I studied anthropology and archaeology, which showcased to me that every culture, since beginning of recorded time, used plants as part of their medicine. Exploring traditional medical knowledge from Indigenous cultures highlighted to me some of the wisdom that nature has to offer. The thought of being a naturopathic doctor and helping people use natural methods of healing with herbs, healthy whole foods and sunshine was very appealing to me.

Another of my inspirations for becoming a naturopathic doctor was in learning that NDs do not approach health from only one direction, but rather, they see medicine as a expression of the interconnected web of natural interventions that promote vitality and happiness. This holistic approach, including the mind-body connection and lifestyle factors, as a part of healthcare framework, was essential to me. Additionally, there is a growing body of scientific research on herbs, nutrients and mind-body medicine that continues to validate my decision to pursue naturopathy.

Through my own health journey and how natural medicine helped me, I went into naturopathic medicine to empower and educate others about the awesome power of natural medicine.

Q: Was there a specific incident that inspired you to take the ND path?

My health story began where many health stories begin – in the gut. From an early age, I knew that eating eggs caused me stomach pain. When I developed what I was told was IBS in my teens, I already knew that food can have a major impact on your digestion. So when I had an IBS attack after eating a bag of potato chips, I thought I would cut out potatoes to see if this was causing me all the trouble. It turns out, it did! People thought I was crazy, but I knew firsthand that food can influence your health.

My natural healing journey really picked up when I was a student at the University of Western Ontario. Like many people today, I developed migraines that interfered with my daily life. I was put on medication, but the drugs made me feel nauseous and tired. I decided to explore natural medicine as it had helped me with my digestive issues, and it aligned with my environmental values. With some investigation, I was able to find the root causes of my migraines and get off the medications (with a little help from natural supplements). In most migraine cases, taking a holistic approach is crucial as most are caused by multiple factors. This incident really made me aware that proper nutrition, exercise, and stress management were needed to be healthy. These natural approaches were way more effective and gentler than the pharmaceutical options. 

While volunteering at the University of Waterloo’s student health clinic during my premedical studies, I saw many students with my former ailments. I was frustrated that students were only getting medications that caused side effects. The students were only being treated for their symptoms and no one was discussing how to prevent them. If we are going to progress and increase quality of life we must have a cultural mindset of prevention. What we need is a consistent approach at raising vitality, instead of merely treating symptoms, and forge a pathway to better public health and happiness.

Q: Anything else you might want to add?

It is a wonderful privilege to be able to help others on their own health journey. After more than five years in practice and seeing hundreds of patients, I am more confident than ever that nature holds the keys to our health. From the microbes in our soil, the nutrients in our food, and the smell of lavender flowers in our garden, to the vitamin D we make from sunshine, nature provides complete wellness for us to live healthier, happier lives.

View more about Dr. Jaclyn Perchaluk here.

Frances Makdessian | Manager Advancement, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

Q: How has the Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation helped the naturopathic students at CCNM?

I am passionate about health and well-being and feel blessed that my role at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) is in sync with my values. As Manager of the Advancement Department at the College, my job is to create relationships with individuals and organizations whose values mesh with the College’s vision: to make naturopathic medicine an integral part of health care through pre-eminent education, research and clinical services.

The Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation has supported students at the College by offering an annual bursary and by providing access to rich on-line community. Our students study a variety of naturopathic therapeutics, two of which — clinical nutrition and botanical medicine – are a focus of Foundation. No doubt there are more intersections.

Q: In your experience, is there a significant need to support students in the field of naturopathic medicine?

Yes, there is a significant need to support students in the field of naturopathic medicine. This is clearly evidenced by the current health care crisis as many Canadians turn to Naturopathic Doctors for health information and information on public health measures.

CCNM offers a four-year, full-time naturopathic medicine program; the only Doctor of Naturopathy degree in Canada. The College receives no government funding.

Learn more about CCNM here.

You can also read more about BINM, here.

As mentioned above, our Foundation provides education bursary programs for aspiring Naturopathic Doctors in Canada. We are happy to share individual stories of some of our recent bursary recipients, including Jessica Heupel (here), Maryam Yavari (here) and Gehana Shankar (here). Learn more about the Plant a Seed & See What Grows education bursary programs.